Book Review: A Deal With the Elf King by Elise Kova

Author: Elise Kova
Series: Married to Magic, #1
Age Category: New Adult
Publisher: Silver Wing Press
Publish Date: November 6, 2020
Print Length: 338

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Official Synopsis

The elves come for two things: war and wives. In both cases, they come for death.

Three-thousand years ago, humans were hunted by powerful races with wild magic until the treaty was formed. Now, for centuries, the elves have taken a young woman from Luella’s village to be their Human Queen.

To be chosen is seen as a mark of death by the townsfolk. A mark nineteen-year-old Luella is grateful to have escaped as a girl. Instead, she’s dedicated her life to studying herbology and becoming the town’s only healer.

That is, until the Elf King unexpectedly arrives… for her.

Everything Luella had thought she’d known about her life, and herself, was a lie. Taken to a land filled with wild magic, Luella is forced to be the new queen to a cold yet blisteringly handsome Elf King. Once there, she learns about a dying world that only she can save.

The magical land of Midscape pulls on one corner of her heart, her home and people tug on another… but what will truly break her is a passion she never wanted.

A Deal with the Elf King is a complete, stand-alone novel, inspired by the tales of Hades and Persephone, as well as Beauty and the Beast, with a “happily ever after” ending. It’s perfect for fantasy romance fans looking for just the right amount of steam and their next slow-burn and swoon-worthy couple.

My Review

I absolutely loved this book. Whether it’s because I have a soft spot for fantasy romance, or because I picked this up as a comfort read when I felt down, this book checked all the right boxes. First, I love that this is a standalone novel. I don’t mind committing to a series, but sometimes I don’t want to. It’s nice to read a “one and done,” even more so when strong female characters, writing, and magic systems dominate.

Initially, the official blurb drew me in. But Kova’s writing got me to stay. It’s incredibly important, in my opinion, to have a few strong opening lines to pique the reader’s curiosity, and Kova certainly delivers on that aspect.

There are only two reasons why the elves come to our world: war or wives. In either case, they come for death. They come today.
Loc 92

How foreboding!

I also love that Luella, the main female character, has a strong personality. She has a resolute sense of duty and responsibility and a caring nature, which is fitting for her healer profession. When she finds out she’s the next Human Queen, she digs deep for the greater good. If she doesn’t depart with the Elf King, her whole world will fall apart, for their worlds are linked and his is dying.

Love is a dangerous distraction from duty.
Loc 996

I appreciate that Luella doesn’t fall head over heels for the Elf King right away, even if she acknowledges his good looks. Instalove is a trope I prefer to avoid, and one that I almost always find unbelievable. When instalove occurs, it can distract me from the story. Instead, she focuses on learning more about her new home, the land of Midscape, and trying to understand and connect with the Elf King. The latter is where her training as a healer shines in that she remains calm and collected to break through his icy defenses. So, rather than instalove, we get a semi-enemies to lovers trope slow burn built upon growing trust, friendship, and appreciation for each other.

Though the story mostly occurs in Midscape, Kova gives us glimpses of other cultures and magic systems beyond the elf lands. Luella and the Elf King must also navigate through treason and plot, which threatens the restoration of Midscape. There are factions that would rather depose of the Human Queen in favor of another solution to prevent the death of their lands.

I thought the magic system was, overall, well-defined, though not as complex as in other fantasy stories. There were certain aspects that weren’t quite clear to me, either because I couldn’t connect the dots very well, or maybe I read it too fast. In particular, I’m thinking of the solution Luella finds near the end of the book; I understood how it physically worked, but the magic behind it wasn’t crystal clear to me. (If anyone wants to talk about it, please leave a comment!) Otherwise, learning about how and why the human world became separate from Midscape was interesting.

There are only a couple of things I didn’t like that are worth mentioning. The first is that the Elf King uses his magic on Luella at the beginning to force her compliance. Though I understand he’s trying to save his dying land, and therefore the people living on it, that still made me cringe. Thankfully Luella asserts herself and informs him that’s no way to treat anyone.

The second item concerns the solution Luella finds to restore magic to Midscape, which someone haphazardly stored away for centuries. I’m being a bit vague because I don’t want to introduce spoilers. But I found it odd that the Human Queen didn’t pass this solution to her successor; or, at the very least, each elven King. I suppose you could chalk it up as a loss to time, but that seems a bit weak for such an important bit of information that will keep Midscape from dying.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading A Deal With the Elf King. I definitely recommend it to fans of fantasy romance. Moreover, it’s a good read for those who enjoy stories with similarities to Beauty and the Beast, or are fans of A Court of Thorns and Roses. I anticipate reading more from this author.

Rating: 4.25/5
Content warnings: bullying, death, sex
Reading format: Kindle e-book

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